Running injuries are a natural part of training for any runner. In this post, 2x US Champion Tara Welling, and Doctor of Physical Therapy Michael Herrera, share their tips on how to manage and overcome running injuries so that you can get back to doing what you love….running.
Tara is an Online Running Coach for RunDoyen, helping runners across all levels. You can visit her personal profile page at RunDoyen.com/Tara where she offers Personal Coaching, Custom Training Plans & Video Chat Consultations.
Michael is RunDoyen’s Doctor of Physical Therapy, focused on helping runners to get healthy and run stronger. You can visit his personal profile page at RunDoyen.com/Michael where he offers Strength & Rehab support for runners.
Listen to Your Body
Let’s face it. No one likes to deal with injuries. Accepting an injury is a tough pill to swallow because, as runners, we grind out workouts, put in the long runs and have a target goal in mind that we have been training hard for. When our body lets us down, our mind takes over to convince ourselves “it’s not that bad”. There are two types of athletes when it comes to an injury, the “smart” or the “stubborn”. I can say this from personal experience because I have evaded injury by being smart, but I have also suffered achilles tendinosis for 6 months, two pelvic fractures and two tibia stress fractures (simultaneously). I don’t say this because I want you to feel sorry for me, I say this because I want to help you not make the mistakes I made. Most runners, like myself, will repeatedly have this little voice in our head telling ourselves things like, “it doesn’t hurt that bad”, “it starts feeling better after it warms up”, “I just need to foam roll, stretch and ice, it will get better.” Injuries are inevitable, however, taking the precautionary steps, seeking medical attention and creating a rehab plan can get you back on the trails and targeting your next race with a better understanding of how to prevent future injuries.
Back in college, I was once injured, but was too embarrassed to bring it to my coaches’ attention. I continued to train on my knee injury that became exacerbated to a point where I couldn’t even walk without pain. I remember taking the approach of “two weeks off” with complete rest and icing. And, it temporarily worked! Until I began running decent mileage again. Now, I’ve learned what I was experiencing was quite an easy treatment and rehab. Once I sought help, I was able to make a quick return following a dialed in strength/mobility exercise regime created specifically for me. My mistake? Not seeking help soon enough.
Understand Why You are Injured
The first step should be to find out why you became injured or why you are experiencing these aches and pains – and do it fast! If you think you are experiencing a bone related injury, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Did you increase your mileage too quickly?
- Have you had your gait analyzed for imbalances, which can lead to compensation and more force applied to certain areas and bones?
- Is there an underlying health issue, such as osteoporosis or calcium deficiency?
Figure Out What is Causing the Pain
Injuries often fall into a Victim/Culprit paradigm, meaning that the area where you feel pain may not necessarily be the area of cause. This is where a professional can help to identify any muscle imbalances in order to truly understand the underlying cause of your pain or injury.
Active Recovery: More than Just Rest
While rest or time off from running is often a requirement to treating an injury, there are many things you can do while you are injured. Of course, you want to be sure to treat the symptoms of your injury in order to recover quickly, but most importantly you want to treat the cause. This way, once you are recovered you can hit the ground running without worry. There are many things one can work on when sidelined with an injury. Once you’ve identified any underlying causes, you can begin to strength/mobility exercise regime specifically targeted toward that area. For example, you may want to work on core, glute, and lumbopelvic limitations as your lower extremity pathology heals.
Learn from Your Past
My injuries stem from a few different reasons and I cannot pinpoint one exact cause of the injury, but now, I know how to better prevent injuries from happening in the future. Firstly, I have been diagnosed with osteoporosis and that strongly inhibits my ability to run high mileage on land. I was constantly trying to push my body to run 100-mile weeks consecutively and while I was feeling strong and fit, my body broke down and left me with two pelvic stress fractures. I was stubborn after coming back from the first pelvic injury and felt I could continue training the way I always had and ended up fracturing it again a year later. I now incorporate much more specific cross training and limit my time running on land by about 20% and constantly try to seek a soft surface to run on instead of asphalt or concrete. I love the feeling of asphalt under my feet when running, however, I now know that the cost of running on pavement vs grass and/or trails can be detrimental. It is important to understand that everybody is different and how one person trains, may not work for others.
Questions for Tara or Michael? They’re happy to answer in our Community Forum.
If you enjoy training tips & advice like this from the top running professionals, be sure to see our other blog posts.